While Google is the clear leader in search, their biggest competition is not what anyone would expect.
According to Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt, Google’s biggest search competitor is not Bing or Yahoo! — it’s actually the retail giant Amazon.
“People don’t think of Amazon as search, but if you are looking for something to buy, you are more often than not looking for it on Amazon,” says Schmidt. “They are obviously more focused on the commerce side of the equation, but, at their roots, they are answering users’ questions and searches, just as we are.”
Schmidt was giving a speech in Berlin, outlining the competitive landscape, and explaining why Google shouldn’t be regulated as the “gatekeeper” of the Internet.
Google has been under fire from regulators in the EU, where critics have accused it of having too much power. Schmidt, however, took the opportunity to deflect the blame on companies like Amazon and Facebook, who he claims are just as powerful.
In the same speech, Schmidt also calls out businesses like Yelp and TripAdvisor, who have claimed that the Google’s “monopoly” is hurting their businesses. But Schmidt points out that the amount of traffic to their websites has increased significantly thanks to Google searches.
Amazon may be Google’s biggest competition, but the e-commerce site is also their best customer. Amazon was the biggest spender on Google search ads last year in the U.S., spending $157.7 million.
Unsurprisingly, Google is taking notes on its competition. They’ve recently been updating and improving the content marketing of their product listing ads, making them more appealing for shopping, and essentially more Amazon-like. The more features Google offers, like product descriptions and reviews, the less likely shoppers are to start their shopping intuitively on Amazon, unless they’re already Amazon regulars.
The business of search engines is important to more than just the engines themselves, or the users. Search engine optimization is becoming an increasingly important part of online marketing, with companies finding that developing quality offsite and linking it back to their website makes the website looks more relevant to Google, and increases search engine ranking and overall traffic. A study by OutBrain shows that search engines are the #1 driver of traffic to content websites.
Schmidt explained that Google works very differently than other companies that have been called gatekeepers, and regulated as such, because “no one is stuck with Google:”
“…while we’re undoubtedly an important part of the Internet — and the key player in search — information discovery comes in all shapes and sizes because there are many windows onto the web.”